Understanding and Using Incident Management

Incident Management is a process that involves responding to incidents and disruptions to an organization’s IT systems, resolving them as quickly as possible, minimizing the downtime of the affected system, and limiting the impact on the business. Rapid incident response is critical in today’s technology and IT dominated business landscape. Find out what there is to know about using Incident Management successfully here.

What is Incident Management?

According to ITIL (Information Technology Infrastructure Library), Incident Management deals with any “unplanned disruption of an IT service or reduction of the quality of an IT service.” The aim of Incident Management is to restore normal operation of IT services as quickly as possible in order to minimize financial losses and service outages and thus ensure customer satisfaction.

Incident Management, or IT Incident Management, is thus a process within IT Service Management (ITSM) that focuses on the rapid identification, prioritization, investigation and resolution of incidents that affect normal IT operations. The tool helps to quickly identify the affected systems and components and understand the extent of the incident.

Disruptions or incidents can be caused by human or technical failure, security breaches or various other events. In the Incident Management process, IT support identifies incidents and prioritizes them accordingly to provide a quick resolution.

Incident Management

At a higher level, Incident Management is an important component of IT Service Management and aims to maintain IT service levels and ensure IT service availability for the business. It is critical to guaranteeing Service Level Agreements (SLAs) and therefore customer and user satisfaction.

In summary, Incident Management is an important process within ITSM according to ITIL that focuses on the rapid identification and resolution of incidents in order to restore normal IT operations as quickly as possible and minimize damage to the business.

Good to know: In the narrower sense, IT Incident Management can therefore take into account organizational as well as detailed legal and technical issues.

UML Activity Diagram Incident Management

What is an IT incident? Definition according to ITIL

But what exactly are incidents? According to ITIL, an “incident” is “an unplanned interruption of a service or a reduction of the quality of a service.”

According to this description, the term “incident” can be defined very broadly – from a deterioration in network quality to a lack of storage space or a cyberattack that threatens overall IT security. The detection of such security-related incidents and the response to them is referred to as Security Incident Management or Incident Response Management. We discuss this particular case in more detail below under “The Incident Response Lifecycle.”

Incidents can have many negative impacts on day-to-day operations. They cause longer downtimes and can also result in significant data loss. It is therefore essential to take care of good Incident Management, because disruptions and failures within IT are unfortunately unavoidable. How to deal with them, however, can be planned.

Types of incidents that may occur in companies

Typical incidents can include a variety of failures, such as network connectivity issues, hardware failures, application deviations, system failures, software errors, or security breaches, etc.

For example, an organization focused on cybersecurity might have specific Incident Management challenges that target cyber attack threats .

Organizations operating in regulated industries such as healthcare or financial services may need to meet compliance requirements when dealing with Incident Management.

In the Service Management area, on the other hand, it is important that Incident Management processes are clearly defined and well documented to ensure that service levels are met and customers are satisfied.

However, there are also incidents that are not attributable to IT equipment or software. For example, problems with access systems or permissions can trigger incidents. Disturbed process flows can also lead to incidents that not only affect technical devices, but also describe problems with responsibilities or organizational rules .

This expands the definition of incidents to include enterprise operations. This is related to change processes in the company, which are supported by so-called changes.

Some possible specific topics that may be addressed in the context of Incident Management in various industries or disciplines include:

  • Incident Management related to cyberattacks, malware infections, or data breaches
  • Compliance requirements in connection with Incident Management processes
  • Incident Management for critical infrastructures such as energy supply or transportation systems
  • Incident Management in the financial services industry, including fraud detection and compliance reporting
  • Service Management requirements related to Incident Management processes
  • Incident Management aspects of business continuity and disaster recovery plans
  • Incident Management related to physical security and access controls

Depending on the challenges an organization has in its specific area, certain Incident Management aspects may be more important than others, and it is important to focus on the issues that are relevant to your needs.

What is the difference between Problem and Incident Management?

Problem Management is the process of identifying and eliminating underlying causes to prevent recurring problems. The goal of Incident Management, on the other hand, is to quickly restore normal operations. A problem is therefore the cause of one or more malfunctions.

Now you know what Incident Management is, its benefits, and where its advantages lie for different types of organizations. Now it’s time to take a look at the practices and how an IIncident Response Cycle is designed for security-related incidents.

The Importance of Incident Management

The importance of Incident Management for companies is enormous. IT system failures can be protracted and harm companies in many ways – not only financially. In addition to the potential loss of revenue and poorer customer relations, an IT outage also impacts productivity, work efficiency and employee satisfaction.

Fast and effective Incident Management ensures that IT systems paralyzed by disruptions come back online as quickly as possible to minimize financial losses and continue operations as smoothly as possible.

IT support can also use Incident Management processes to ensure that incidents are properly logged and categorized to identify trends and patterns of recurring errors and address them for the future.

This allows companies to identify problems before they can develop into major incidents. This is why Incident Management should be an important part of a company’s IT strategy, as it helps, in summary, not only to quickly identify disruptions in IT operations, but even to prevent them in the future.

Good Incident Management has the effect of restoring IT service operations as quickly as possible, maintaining user satisfaction and increasing customer confidence in the company.

To sum up, intelligent Incident Management provides these benefits:

  • More efficiency
  • Less downtime
  • Visibility and transparency of processes
  • Risk minimization in case of incidents
  • Better insights into service quality
  • Fulfillment of Service Level Agreements (SLAs)
  • Proactively preventing incidents
  • Better customer and employee experience
  • Avoidance of recurring errors
  • Cost saving

What makes Incident Management so efficient?

Incidents are documented with the help of tickets. A service desk is responsible for receiving and monitoring the tickets. Accordingly, the tasks of a service sesk team include both the rapid and goal-oriented receipt of service requests and the qualification of requests, which can include malfunctions, problems, tickets and incidents.

This primarily involves support for routine tasks, which are managed via tickets and incidents, and other services, such as Change and Release Management or configuration tasks.

Good Incident Management tools, such as the one from REALTECH, often offer a range of functions to automate repetitive tasks and thus speed up the process. Automation also gives you the opportunity to standardize your processes. This allows to ensure adherence to policies and procedures, which in turn can help to meet compliance requirements.

You can also use our Incident Management tool to analyze trends and patterns to identify potential incidents early and proactively handle them. By analyzing incident data, you can identify patterns that indicate re-occurring problems, which can prevent or minimize future disruptions.

Tasks of the Service Desk

Easy Integration into other ITSM processes

However, an intelligent Incident Management tool not only provides fast and reliable identification and resolution of incidents, but also enables seamless integration with other ITSM processes, such as:

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The Incident Response Lifecycle

Security incidents require rapid intervention where threats or events are detected, analyzed, and remediated in real time. Here, companies use specific methods and tools consisting of a combination of IT automation and human expertise. The aim is to keep damage to a minimum and prevent any incidents.

Operators of critical infrastructures in particular must prove that their information security measures meet the legal requirements for Risk Management:

  • All incidents must be fully documented.
  • Solution scenarios for security incidents must be predefined and quickly retrievable.
  • Responsibilities must be clarified and workflows must be adhered to.

What is a Security Incident and how is it triggered and resolved?

Security incident response is a process similar to Incident Management, but applied specifically to security incidents. A security incident can be multi-faceted in nature – it can be an active threat or a data breach , for example. These incidents can occur both inside and outside a company.

Incident response is subsequently the process of responding to IT threats such as cyber attacks, security breaches, and server failures. Since these security-threatening incidents are accompanied by serious consequences that are not necessarily only financial, it is important to be particularly vigilant. That’s why a detailed framework for resolving such incidents has also evolved: the Incident Response Lifecycle.

In theory, various approaches have been established for this purpose and one of the best known is the Incident Response Lifecycle according to the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). This divides incident response into four main phases:

  • Preparation
  • Detection and analysis
  • Containment, elimination and restoration
  • Activities after the event
Incident Response Lifecycle

Phase 1: Preparation

The preparation phase includes the actions an organization takes to prepare for incident response. These are, for example, setting up the right tools and training the team. This phase includes activities designed to prevent incidents.

Phase 2: Recognize and analyze

Accurate incident detection and assessment is often the most difficult aspect of incident response for many organizations, according to NIST. In principle, a problem can arise in any project phase and can be internal in nature or related to suppliers or your customers. This may affect the incident’s prioritization that you make later in the process. Always record the following information when identifying a fault:

  • Name or ID number
  • Description
  • Date
  • Incident Manager

This information will serve as your reference later, especially if you are working with a Problem Management plan. It also allows you to find out the root cause of the failure (Problem Management) and ensure that it does not happen again.

In order to respond appropriately to a disruption, an analysis is needed to determine the disruption and prioritize it in the workflow. Only then can the solution phase begin. For most malfunctions, there is a predefined solution path.

However, if this person is not directly available, it may be necessary to forward the problem to be resolved with the help of the appropriate department heads. In such a case, a creative approach to the problem and provisional solutions may be necessary.

Phase 3: Containment, removal and recovery

Once you’ve analyzed the disruption and found the underlying cause, it’s time to delegate the tasks in your response plan. You do this by assigning resources. The best way to do this is in an incident log or with the help of work management software.

Regardless of what you decide to do: All involved and, if applicable, relevant persons should be informed about the action plan. This ensures a good overview, open communication and thus efficient Incident Management.

This phase focuses on minimizing the impact of the incident and mitigating service disruptions. At this stage, you also need to ensure that all actions in your response plan actually result in the desired outcomes before you close open tasks.

Whether you work with a ticket system, a service desk, or service requests: It’s reassuring to know that there are no more unresolved to-dos. So once all the tasks are completed, you can officially close the response plan with a clear conscience and move on to documenting the incident .

For companies dealing with critical infrastructures, response plans, clear responsibilities and comprehensive documentation through a ticket system represent important and possibly even indispensable tools for successfully passing an audit.

Phase 4: Post-incident activities

One of the most important parts of incident response that people tend to forget is that you learn from it and improve. The final phase in the Incident Management process is therefore the final documentation of the results of your response to the problem. You should save all the information you have collected in the previous steps in a shared workspace for easy access in the future.

In this phase, the incident itself and the incident response efforts are analyzed. The intent is to limit the likelihood of the incident reoccurring and identify opportunities to improve future incident response activities.

Overall, the concept of these four phases is based on a sound knowledge base . The effectiveness of phase three is highly dependent on the success of phases one and two. If Incident Management is to provide optimal protection and you want to ensure the recovery of IT services in the enterprise, all four phases must be implemented successfully.

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7 Tips for efficient Incident Management

Now that you know how to handle an incident, you can start creating a custom incident log that fits your organization’s needs. In any case, the most important methods in Incident Management include well-organized and clear logging, training for the team, effective communication within the team and, wherever possible, automating processes.

Getting started can be challenging, so here are 7 tips to help you properly document and troubleshoot problems.

1. Early identification of malfunctions

Early detection of incidents is critical to successful Incident Management. Because the faster you act, the easier it will be to deal with the consequences.

To ensure that you are prepared for potential incidents, it is recommended that you allow sufficient time for a regular review of your project. This will help you determine which malfunctions you are facing and which of them could lead to serious problems.

2. Well organized logging

Good organization is critical in all areas of project management, but is especially important when documenting issues that can potentially have long-term implications. It is advisable to establish order in the documentation and to keep the descriptions of the faults short and concise.

If you want to include more information in your incident log but don’t have enough space, you can include a link that leads to more detailed information.

3. Trainings for the team

Your Incident Management is only as good as the team that faces it. Therefore, plan enough resources to train your team professionally as well as practically.

Develop an incident log together and hold regular meetings by introducing tools and programs as well as sharing them in practice. Discuss malfunctions that could occur or have already occurred. This way, your team is prepared and can identify disruptions before they get out of control.

4. Process automation

Use business process automation wherever possible. Although it can be challenging to automate processes at first, you will save a lot of time and avoid incidents in the long run. With sophisticated tools like ITSM software, you can ensure that incidents are detected quickly and automatically .

Of course, there is no perfect solution to all incidents, but automation can help you identify potential problems that might otherwise have remained hidden from you. However, be sure to monitor automated tasks regularly. If you rely too much on automation and lose sight of tasks, errors may occur that you would not have noticed otherwise.

5. Central communication

Since communication in virtual work environments is often decentralized, teams unfortunately waste too much time on duplicate work. For this reason, it is essential to establish well thought out and organized communication.

Various collaboration tools help establish a central place for collaboration, which is an important step in terms of Incident Management. By establishing such a central communication location, the entire team not only saves valuable time, but can also view and use older messages and documents more easily.

6. Project management tools

There are many tools you can use to create and maintain your Incident Management system, including project management software. Not only can this help you organize your workflow and communication within the team, but it can also help you create workflows to support your employees.

This is especially important when multiple teams need to collaborate on troubleshooting. After all, the more convoluted and chaotic the communications and associated tasks, the more difficult it becomes to resolve incidents in real time. By using the right tools, you can avoid clutter and achieve faster results.

7. Continuous improvement

When you introduce a new plan, such as an incident response plan, continually look for ways to improve it. Your first runs will likely be different from later ones as you learn to be more effective and efficient over time. This makes it easier to detect incidents at an early stage and minimize their effects.

While experience is known to be the best teacher, there are still ways to expand your knowledge and skills. For example, you can participate in webinars, or contact competent partners who can provide new ideas for your work.

In addition, you can and should monitor your performance metrics and use results from analyzing projects to learn from mistakes and improve the way you work in the future.

Conclusion: Incident Management is more important than ever before

With the growing complexity of IT organizations, their service offerings, service structures, and the increasing number as well as sophistication of threats, organizations are facing unprecedented risk. With effective Incident Management, you can mitigate this risk by identifying and resolving incidents faster.

While outages and other incidents are inevitable for any business, Incident Management is the most effective way to initiate an immediate response and prevent costly downtime that can threaten your company’s reputation and bottom line.